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(Email Removed) (Mark Brader) wrote on 08 Nov 2003:
Paulo V.:

Agreed, and a style manual should be consulted if one of these four structures must be used. They are all bad style becaue they promote unnecessary and unwanted ambiguity, so the solution is to recast the sentence.
When you have a nested structure of lists, the commas in the outer level of listing get promoted to semicolons. ... green and yellow. I think 6 is actually the clearest of the lot, but it's still wrong by my grammar.

I also agree with almost everything here. It may be wrong in your grammar, but for written English, if this has to be the structure, this has to be the punctuation in order to eliminate any ambiguity (I am a user of the serial comma). If this is what someone actually said and it need to be transcribed verbatim, as it would for a trial, for example, then this is how I would do it. But I wouldn't write such a sentence otherwise.
I would consider any of these sentences bad style in writing, although in speech the wording is easier to follow ... and yellow." Or "There was one red, white and blue flag and one green and yellow one." Something like that.

Dead right.
Paulo, tell your students that bad sentences do not warrant spending precious time punctuating unless they are absolutely required. Sometimes the punctuation has to be creative for the reasons stated above. But if bad sentences are not required, they should be rewritten and made into good sentences.
I'd say that the first flag was "red, white, and blue" and the second was "green and yellow", and as you don't put a comma between two things separated by an "and" the combination should be 3.

... which has a comma between two things separated by an 'and'.

Paul
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On 8 Nov 2003 08:14:56 GMT, CyberCypher
Why would you say that? Your opinion is useless without a reason.

Why would you say that, etc?

Paul
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POSTED FRIDAY - REPOSTING AS IT WAS NOT PROPAGATED - APPEARS TO HAVE GOT LOST Calling all sympathetic fellow-educators: God ... that all the other students would have the chance to benefit from the discussion. :-P Help! Was I right? Why?

This kind of problem calls for extraboxial mentalization. The problem is that the "and"s are operating at two distinct levels to separate colours and to separate flags. Commas alone can't do the job.

The two flags were red, white & blue and green & yellow.

Hope that helps.
Matti
4 is unacceptable, I'd say.

So just 2 would be acceptable? Thank you.

1 is acceptable, but 2 is clearer.

Paul
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Paul Rooney (Email Removed) wrote on 08 Nov 2003:
Why would you say that? Your opinion is useless without a reason.

Why would you say that, etc?

Because it's obvious that you are nothing but a parrot, and not a very good one, either.
On 8 Nov 2003 12:12:03 GMT, CyberCypher
Why would you say that, etc?

Because it's obvious that you are nothing but a parrot, and not a very good one, either.

Let me make it easier for you: If an opinion without a reason is useless, then your opinion, that an opinion without a reason is useless, is useless too. OK?
However, in your defence, it is not true that an opinion without a reason is useless. Usefully, that also works in my defence too. OK?

Paul
My Lake District walking site (updated 29th September 2003): http://paulrooney.netfirms.com
Please sponsor me for the London Marathon at:
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1. The two flags were red, white and blue and green and yellow. 2. The two flags were red, white ... red, white, and blue, and green and yellow. I opted for number 2, but said that number 4 was acceptable.

1 and 3 are confusing and therefore inadvisable (1 may be worse than 3); 2 isgeneral British and the style of the Associated Press and therefore OK for certain audiences; and 4 is traditional literary British and general American and therefore likeliest to be accepted by the majority of native speakers of English.
That said, the sentence remains potentially perplexing. Why not "One flag was red, white, and blue, and the other was green and yellow"?
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1. The two flags were red, white and blue and ... flags were red, white, and blue, and green and yellow.

1 and 3 are confusing and therefore inadvisable (1 may be worse than 3); 2 is general British and the style of the Associated Press ... and 4 is traditional literary British and general American ...

I dispute the claim that all of those standards would allow the comma after "blue". In particular, I would expect AP style to require 1 (even though it's the least clear of all), and "traditional literary British" to require 3. For further comment see my earlier posting in the thread.

Mark Brader, Toronto > "Nature, Mr. Allnutt, is what we are put in this (Email Removed) > world to rise above." The African Queen

My text in this article is in the public domain.
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